Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own. — Samuel Johnson
The concept of food security means different things to different people. With the abundance of food easily available at local grocery stores, some may wonder why it is even a topic of concern at all.
So what is food insecurity? Simply put it is when a household worries about or lacks the financial means to buy healthy, safe, personally acceptable food. The cause of food insecurity, however, is complex. According to the Provincial Health Services Authority (HSA), over one in 10 BC households have experienced food insecurity. This issue is particularly prevalent among those on social assistance (76%), Employment Insurance and Workers’ Compensation. However, food insecurity can also be brought about by other means. Our reliance on food grown outside of our local communities means that issues outside our control — drought or natural disaster, rising transportation costs or conflict — could make our food situation suddenly precarious and vulnerable. For these reasons, understanding the risks and supporting a sustainable, local food network should be of importance to us all. Here are some ideas to get started.
Support Community Supported Agriculture
Supporting the local farmers who grow food in our region is one of the best ways to support food security and to get involved in the issues surrounding it. Farmers’ markets abound in our communities and are a great way to get to know your grower and purchase local, in-season food. Likewise, many farms offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes: a weekly or bi-weekly box of produce that is delivered or picked up. This locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution supports the local farmers, and connects the buyer with its food producer. A side benefit of the CSA box is that the food is typically organic, fresher than what could be obtained at the grocery store, and often less expensive. (Check out some CSA programs in our area on the Farm Folk City Folk website or the Surrey Food Map).
Grow Your Own Food
Whether you have a large yard or a small balcony, growing good at home is a great way to get your start in food security. Once you are planting and tending to your own vegetables organically, it is not such a stretch to start considering the many other issues that go hand-in-hand with food security, such as preventing waste, food preservation and seed saving. Not to mention, that gardening is fun and a great way to get some exercise outdoors.
Those with adequate space will be amazed by the bounty of tomatoes, zucchini, onions, potatoes, etc. they can grow inexpensively with little day-to-day effort. Those with smaller spaces may wish to explore balcony gardening, growing herbs and microgreens, or planting radishes, cherry tomatoes or leafy greens.
If you really have the gardening bug, we have a host of community gardens in the area where, for a small annual fee, you can get a plot of your own to grow on and engage with other like-minded folks.
Have you ever harvested blackberries from a bush on public land? If so, you’ve already gotten to know the gleaning scene! Gleaning is the collection of leftover crops from farmers’ fields, or unwanted food from other venues. For example, there are huge numbers of fruit trees in public parks and private yards across the Lower Mainland that go unpicked. The gleaning community strives to make use of this unwanted food and help disseminate it to those who can use it. One related example right here in our community is the Ocean Park Community Orchard (link to: http://surrey.ca/culture-recreation/18086.aspx) which, once fully grown, will provide opportunities for the public to harvest apples, plums and berries. There are also some useful apps and maps where the public can find public fruit trees in their area.
These are just a few ideas about how to become actively involved in the food security scene, helping sustain affordable and healthy food for yourself and others. Interested in learning more or getting involved with food security projects in White Rock or South Surrey? Contact us to learn more at Surrey White Rock Food Action Coalition